To Apple, the whole product is the design; top to bottom, inside and out, hardware and software and services. Apple builds everything to work together as seamlessly, effortlessly as possible. Apple’s competitors steal product bullet points, but not how an Apple product actually works.
The examples are numerous. PC notebooks look like a MacBook Air; thin and light, but cheaply made and still running Windows, and usually with lesser CPUs and storage, but much, much cheaper than a Mac.
Yet, it’s the Mac which owns most of the PC industry’s profits. Here’s another example. What did Android smartphones look like before Apple launched the iPhone? They looked like BlackBerrys. In fact, all smartphones prior to 2007 looked the same– ugly and unusable. Apple showed the industry the way to the future.
The mobile device industry copied the iPhone’s look and feel, but not the essence of Apple’s device; iOS, interoperability, quality materials, et al. The smartphone segment of the mobile industry has two categories; cheap, plastic knockoff devices running a version of Android, and higher quality aluminum devices running either Android or Apple’s iOS. And it’s the iPhone which owns most of the industry’s profits.
Here’s another example. Apple introduced the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to the iPhone a few years ago. It was an instant success with customers and continues to improve, now integrated into purchases and other security needs.
It didn’t take long for Samsung and other smartphone makers to introduce their own versions of fingerprint sensor technology because they copied Apple’s bullet point instead of how Apple designed the technology into both hardware and software.
Researchers have found a way for hackers to steal fingerprints from Samsung, Huawei, and HTC devices running Android OS. Apple went to great pains to lock down Touch ID into the hardware while copycat makers simply bolted on a fingerprint reader and loudly proclaimed it to be the ‘same thing.’ Obviously, with a growing number of fingerprint security breaches, it’s not.
Apple has been used as the R&D unit of many technology companies through the years– Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and a growing list of Chinese copycats, but in every case those who copy Apple do so at their peril, not their gain.